Pressure grows to ban classic books from schools

The Donlon Report

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — There is growing momentum across the country to ban books from classrooms that some consider inappropriate. But is it valid?

Many of the books, including classics from beloved children’s book author Dr. Seuss, are being removed from school libraries, and classics such as “To Kill a Mockingbird” are being canceled. Some writers say this latest ban could be marking a new chapter in history on the attempts to censor free speech. 

“I think growth comes from discomfort,” author and activist Kimberly Jones said Thursday on “The Donlon Report.” “And so if we’re not putting our kids in a position where they can grow from learning, I think we’re doing them a disservice.”

The latest challenges come at a time when more elected officials and more conservative parent groups are calling for books to be removed from school libraries. Jones said there is a reason why schools should be able to “expand their canon” when it comes to exploring social issues through classic textbooks.

“There are new books that have been added that tackle these issues that are more relevant (and) that the kids are more attracted to,” she said. “And they can learn these same lessons wholeheartedly. But at the same time as an author, there’s no way I can get on board with banning books, especially when we’re talking about the ability to grow our kids through difficult conversations.” 

Substack journalist Matt Taibbi, who also joined the show, says although the latest bans on books are nothing new, it does raise the question of who’s really dictating these curricula. 

“It’s unfortunate,” Taibbi said. “It’s part of democracy, you elect school boards, and they make decisions about what teachers do and do not teach. There’s a difference between banning something from a library and removing something from a curriculum.”

But where do we draw the line on what’s acceptable and what’s offensive in today’s society? 

“In general, the question of when you want to start treating kids as adults is a difficult one,” Taibbi said. “Although I would argue that ‘To Kill a Mockingbird” is a book that you can teach … pretty young children, and they should be able to handle it.”

The Mukilteo School Board in Washington voted Monday to axe the classic book from its required reading list for ninth graders. The board said it was simply moved from the required list, but that children are still welcome to read the book. 

Books including “The Bluest Eye,” which tells the story of a Black girl dealing with incest and child molestation, and “Maus,” which tells the story about a boy’s parents’ imprisonment in Nazi concentration camps, have also been pulled from school libraries. The ban is particularly noticeable in red states. 

Jones said the moral panic that these school boards are creating behind these types of books is just that — panic. 

“Kids are really capable … we really underestimate the conversations that they’re having amongst themselves on their own and the book can be a great portal into having these difficult conversations.” 

According to the American Library Association, the number of attempts to ban school library books was 67% higher in September 2021 than in September 2020.

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